When The Beatles were first getting started, their manager Brian Epstein encouraged them to form a publishing company with Dick James, a prominent music publisher. Thus, Northern Songs was born. As the band flourished, the company opened up to the stock market.
James and his partner Charles Silver took a 37.5% share, while John Lennon and Paul McCartney received a 15% share in Northern Songs. George Harrison and Ringo Starr, however, were only given 0.8%.
In 1967, Epstein died, leaving The Beatles in a tenuous agreement with James and Silver. James then sold his publishing rights to ATV Music without giving The Beatles any chance to gain the rights for themselves.
Michael Jackson snatched up the full ATV catalogue two decades later and subsequently sold half the rights to Sony. Jackson’s remaining share was sold to Sony recently, making Sony the sole owner.
McCartney has motioned to revert the copyrights on these songs. Though copyrights usually last for the life of the author plus 70 years, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 allows writers to make a claim for the rights after 56 years.
This means that it is likely that one of the only remaining Beatles will finally have creative control over how his music is used, and will perhaps be able to expand on his already impressive fortune.